Okay, admit it. As a kid, you most likely tried to fry an egg on the hot sidewalk to prove or disprove that ‘it’s so hot outside you could fry an egg on the sidewalk.’ We all learned that although the egg responds to the heat, the sidewalk doesn’t usually get above 140° F (60° C) and because the sidewalk isn’t a heat conductor, it doesn’t distribute the heat efficiently. Therefore, it typically doesn’t work out too well. But that hasn’t kept us from continuing in our fascination with using the heat of the sun to cook our food in addition to powering our homes, cars and so many other things.
Whether you’re a camper, an ardent environmentalist or you are experiencing a power outage, cooking your food using the sun is a viable option. All you need are materials easily found in the grocery store to build your own ‘solar cooker’—or for those less industrious, you can buy one for under $100. However, there are some that are as powerful or as expensive as traditional stoves. Industrial sized solar cookers can cook for hundreds of people.
The three most common types of solar cookers are box cookers, which accommodate multiple pots, and take between one and three hours to cook various foods. Another favorite is the parabolic cooker, which uses a bowl-shaped reflector to focus the light more directly onto the cooking surface, therefore cooking at higher temperatures. The third most popular option is the panel cooker that incorporates features of both.
All these items use the energy of direct sunlight to heat, cook or pasteurize food and drinks. And, because they use no fuel and cost nothing to operate, many see them as a way to help reduce fuel costs and air pollution, as well as helping to slow down the deforestation and desertification caused by gathering firewood for cooking.
You can find tons of recipes specifically for solar cooking on the web, but because solar cooking can be a little tricky, click here for a few simple recipes to get you started.